Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Open Your Minds"

The title is a favorite quote from "Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban" spoken by Professor Trelawney to her divination class. Sometimes I feel like I have to be a seer to find where these relatives I'm looking for have gone.

The other day, I booted up my GenSmarts program and told it to search for Illinois death records, which it did. One of the families I am researching is the Jeffers family. Deodat Jeffers married Betsy Percival in Michigan. One of their children, William P. Jeffers and his wife, Minnie Crowell moved to Chicago, taking some of their children with them. I was finally able to locate Minnie's death record in Chicago in 1929. Spouse is listed as Wm P. Jeffers. I had him on the 1910 census and then Minnie is listed as a widow in 1920. Yeah. No. I finally found William P. Jeffers in Washington state in 1920 and 1930. So he outlived Minnie by four years. Over to the Washington Digital archives to look for his death record. Did I find him under William Jeffers? No, I did not. I found him by searching for Jeffers and then scrolling down to Wm P Jeffers. A link to his death record is here. That top line told me all I needed to know that this was indeed my William P. Jeffers. Don't forget to use your browser's back button to get back to this page.

Lesson number one: If narrowing your search to a specific area doesn't work, be wild and just do a search for the name, in this case William Jeffers. It worked because I had a birth year, and knew his parents and birthplace.

Lesson number two: Don't believe everything you read on the census. That "widow" designation on the 1920 census had me firmly believing that William died in Chicago between 1910 and 1920. As evidenced by the death record I found for him in 1933 in Skagit County, Washington.This is not the first time I have come across this discrepancy.

Lesson number three: If you have a program such as GenSmarts, that will help you search, USE IT. I know it can be overwhelming at times, but if you narrow down to a family, or geographic area or do what I did and type in Illinois Death records, it will help you focus your search.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes


  1. So, what do you think happened? He left her, and it was less shameful to be a widow?

  2. Nice blog today Anne! As usual you tracked 'em down... way to go!

  3. One set of my 3rd greats are listed in separate households right next door to each other in the 1860 census. That was before marital status was added to the census but her occupation was listed as widow. By 1870 they were back in the same house so I guess they made up.